North Korean Nightmare

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June 11 2010 5:02 PM

North Korean Nightmare

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A must-read portrait of the depraved, dystopian nightmare that is the "Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,"-that is, North Korea-was written by Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times . We all know that this evil regime enslaves, starves, and brainwashes its 24 million subjects. But it's always the fresh details that are the most heartbreaking. LaFraniere interviewed eight North Koreans who had crossed over to China, from an official’s wife to poor (well, everyone but officials are poor) working people. She opens with the story of the family that managed to save the equivalent of $1,500-foregoing food, medicine, clothing for years-only to have it reduced overnight to $30 through an arbitrary currency devaluation. Everyone must work for the state, but the state is in such a state of collapse that the workers must pay their bosses for the privilege of having a "job," and then go and try to sell things on the black market in order to live. A teacher saw her livelihood melt away because the children were too malnourished to come to school or study. LaFraniere quotes her: "It is very hard to teach a starving child." A man is sent to a labor camp for the crime of watching a Jackie Chan movie. To resurface one city’s single paved road, all families were required to deliver 17 bags of pebbles a month. So everyone-old, young, infirm-pounded rocks into rubble. Every time you read about North Korea you can’t help but wish for that day that its citizens drop large rocks on the well-deserving skulls of Kim Jong-il, aka "Dear Leader,"and his minions.

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Photograph of North Korean soldier by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.